A Great Weekend

                A weekend series could not start any better than a one run complete game by Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Jarod Weaver.  The Angels were able to tie up the series with the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday night by winning 6-1 in Weaver’s first career complete game.

                Matt Palmer took the hill on Friday night against the surprising first place Kansas City Royals. Palmer would get the win after throwing seven innings and allowing the bullpen to have a little breathing room. Shields and Arradondo did allow a few across, but not enough to blow another lead. The game’s highlight was when Howie Kendrick got an inside the park homerun.

                Saturday night was a true pitcher’s duel. Zack Greinke took the mound with an astonishing 0.40 ERA entering the game. Not since Fernando Venezuela has a pitcher had that low of an ERA six games into the season. The Angels would send their ace to the hill in Joe Saunders. Entering the game, Saunders had a nice ERA of 3.26, best for the Angels. Saunders had the best strikes to balls ratio at 2-1 in his 101 pitches. Greinke was about 3-2 out of 115 through eight innings.

                The Angels were a doubling machine that night. Out of their four hits, three were doubles. And it was needed. In the third inning, Gary Matthews Jr. came into second standing on a line shot down the right field line. Eric Aybar ground right back to Greinke, but he didn’t check Matthews Jr. back to second, so he advanced to third. Chone Figgins just missed a 1-1 pitch and flied out deep to right. But it did the job. Matthews Jr. virtually walked to home to give the Angels a 0-1 lead.

                But the fear came in the eighth inning when Bloomquist led off for the Royals with a routine ground out to Aybar at short stop. Somehow, the ball got lost somewhere in transition and Morales had to stretch further than a human is supposed to stretch to keep the ball from getting away. Catcher, Miguel Olivo shot one into left field Mike Aviles bunted both over.

                Coco Crisp ground right to Figgins at third and with great luck, Olivo stumbled right into Figgins who was keeping Bloomquist close to third. Crisp reached base nonetheless, but with Dejesus grounding to Figgins, the threat was over.

                Joe Saunders struck out the last two in the ninth bringing his total to six for the night. But the more important thing is that Saunders got his first complete game shutout. He allowed five hits and one walk in the quick game. Zack Greinke also went the distance in his first loss of the season. He allowed one run on four hits, getting five strikeouts with zero walks.

                But you can see what makes the Angel starters better than everyone in baseball. Entering Sunday’s, the Angels had a Major League leading 3.50 combined ERA for starters. Their opponent, the Kansas City Royals, is third with and ERA of 3.68. What makes them great is the ability to get ahead of batters.

                On Saturday, Saunders was ahead of nearly every batter. But Sunday, Shane Loux was the exact opposite, getting behind nearly every single batter. Loux would go only 3 2/3 Sunday, giving up three runs on eight hits while striking out two and walking one. Major props have to be given to Angel manager, Mike Scioscia, for pulling Loux before too much damage was done.

                Darren Oliver gave up one hit in his 2 1/3 innings when he turned it over to Scot Shields. In his two innings of work, Shields was brillant. Out of the seven batters he faced, one would walk, one popped out to center, one ground out to second, and the other four went down swinging.

                It is never more important for a pitcher to throw strike, however, than when throwing to a base. In the seventh inning, Kansas City reliever, Jamey Wright, threw the ground ball from Howie Kendrick over the second basemen’s head trying for an inning ending double play. The throw allowed Mike Napoli to reach third and from there it was all down hill for the Royals.

                Kendrick stole second and was brought in by a double right field. Mathis scored on a great bunt from Figgins that nearly got Figgins on base. Wright got Matthews Jr out to end what should have been an easy inning.

                In the ninth, the bullpen was about to fail again. Callaspo drove a fastball deep over the wall to tie the… “HE DID WHAT?” At the wall Torii Hunter robbed the Royal’s second baseman of a game tying homerun when he soared above the left center wall to save the game. Fuentes did allow the next two to reach, but got the double play to put the Angels two games above .500 and extend their winning streak to four games (a season best).

                All the Angels have to do is keep throwing strikes and they will win. With the Texas Rangers ahead by a half game in the American League West and the ship seemingly righted, for now, winning 100 games is still a possibility. A slim possibility, but still there.

Angels Go 5-2 on the Road

                After a very rough start to the 2009 season, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are about to come home winning 5 of 7 games on the road. Granted, the games were against the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and the Oakland As. Shane Loux took the hill Tuesday night in Oakland going agains Braden, who lost the home opener at Angel Staduim in April. Braden is 3-2 with a 2.10 ERA, obviously the A’s best pitcher.

                Loux said before the game, “I don’t want to go another six years in for the next (win), I’ll tell you that.”  With Mike Napoli reaching base safely in 13 of 14 plate appearances while batting .364 for the season, it was a for gone conclusion.
                As much as I would like to tell you about the game, how the Angels won and who scored, the Charter Communication company has decided not to broadcast the Angel game in a dispute about money. I have learned that they plan not to show these games throughout June. If you have Charter, dump them and get someone else who will show the games. All other cable companies do show the games, just not Charter.

                For the game, I can tell you that Chone Figgins scored twice along with Eric Aybar. Torii Hunter got two RBIs and Bobby Abreu got two. Shields had a scare in the bottom of the nineth, giving up a two run shot to Matt Holliday, making it 5-4, Angels. That would be it for Shields, continuing his struggles.

                The Angel’s bullpen is the worst in all of Major League Baseball with an ERA of 7.66. If you look at their record, the bullpen has lost eight of their 13 losses. Ryan Fuentes came on in relief and got te next two batters to end the game. Fuentes is now tried with Boston Closer, Jonathan Papilbon, for most saves this year with seven.

                Loux did go seven innings giving up 1 run on five hits.

                On the injury front, Ervin Santana three 4 2/3 inning at Rancho Cucumoga, giving up 3 runs, four hits and walking none while strikingout three. The bad part is that he gave up two homeruns. John Lackey was going during the Angel game in Salt Lake City.

                Fans, its going to be scarey all year. Don’t expect to win 100 games this season even with Lackey and Santana back. On the off chance Kelvim Escobar ever pitches again in the majors, let alone for the Angels, its going to be tight. Right now, hope for wild card spot, but with all three divisions in the American League as close as they are, the Angels have a great chance to make the playoff for the sixth time in seven years.

BOOOOOOOO to Charter Cable

I have gotten a lot of angry messages saying that I am only ragging on the Angels and as proof I never write about their wins. Just so you know, the three or four people who actually read this, on Saturday, I had a class for my work that I could not miss. Unfortunetly, the Angels won and I was not going to act as though I saw the game, when I didn’t. As for last nights great win in Oakland… everyone should call this number and complain to Charter that they should do want ever is nessiccary to broadcast the Angels games.

951-784-0016

They are in a battle with Fox Sports over money, but the only ones that suffer are Angel fans. Not even Dodger fans are affected. Only Angel games are being inturuted. So, I could not watch as the Angels beat the Oakland A’s last night.

Maybe (I’m going to say this before someone else does) I’m a jinx for the Angels. They started winning after I gave up on  them in 1998. Each game I go to or watch seems to be a loss for them. Maybe I’m their bad luck charm.

Something is Rotten in New York

                It was obvious from the first inning that the strike zone for the Los Angeles Angels on Anaheim batters was quiet large. Andy Pettitte did not have command of any of his pitches, but when the ball is thrown around the ankles of Gary Matthews Jr and is called a strike, one has to wonder how large the strike zone will get. On the other side of that, everything Jarod Weaver threw was very close to the plate and Derek Jeter and Jonny Damon both had 3-2 counts in the first inning. Both would walk.

                With a strike zone as small as it was for the Angels, it’s not hard to see why the New York Yankees teed off on Weaver to start the game. Hadeki Matsui popped out to Matthews Jr in right to score Jeter. Robinson Cano continued his hitting streak with a shot back up the middle, scoring Damon.

Then the damage really came. Weaver was forced to throw nearly everything right down the middle, allowing Jorge Posada to lightly smack a ball that somehow carried over the right center wall. That was the 28th homerun in eight games at the new Yankee Stadium, beating the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati as most homeruns to open a new ballpark. The next batter, Nick Swisher, was drilled by Weaver in the Elbow. Swisher would come out in the third with an obviously sore elbow.

But the worst non-call I have ever seen was in the top of the third. With Eric Aybar on third, Pettitte went into his pitching motion and stopped after taking a step forward. He went to run back Aybar to third, but this was a textbook definition of a balk and it was never called.

The Angels would put together a string of hits throughout the rest of the game, but never got enough to make a real threat, until the sixth inning. Torii Hunter would continue his hit streak, lining one into center making it 14 games. Mike Napoli, who was the designated hitter, would single to center as well. Howie Kendrick advanced the runners, grounding out to Jeter at short stop and Rob Quinlan struck out looking. But Jeff Mathis came through, grounding one back up the middle scoring Hunter and Napoli. Aybar reached on a grounder to Pena at third who could not handle the scorcher. Chone Figgins would walk and that would be it for Pettitte.

Rookie, Mark Melancon would face Matthews Jr. who turned around to bat left handed. It took one pitch and Matthews Jr. lined one into the gap in right-center for a bases loaded triple. Matthew Jr. would score on a ball that bounced away from Posada as Bobby Abreu walked to first. Boos began to pour in from the cold and wet crowd as Abreu stole his tenth of the season. The Angels were up 6-4.

In the seventh inning, the Angels put three more on the board. After Napoli go his second walk of the day and Kendrick singled to left, Maicer Izturis lined a shot to right field, scoring Napoli. Mathis got Kendrick in on a squeeze bunt and Izturis scored on a deep drive to center field by Matthews Jr.

With the Angels up 9-4, Jose Arredondo took over in the eighth. Things did not start well. After Matsui flipped one back to the pitcher, Robinson Cano doubled to center and Posada walked. Brett Gardner, in for the injured Swisher, made the bases loaded with a liner to left.

Melky Cabrera ground one in the gap between third and short, scoring one. Pena sent a liner to right field bringing in two runs.  Jeter got an RBI when he ground out to short stop, making it 9-8 Angels. But they got out of it when Jonny Damon struck out looking.

Brian Fuentes took over in the ninth in hopes of his sixth save, but to do that, he would have to go through the heart of the Yankee’s line up. Teixeira would finally reach base on a walk and Matsui lined a single to left. With zero outs, Robinson Cano lined one back up the middle to load the bases for Posada. On a 3-2 count, Posada erased Jarod Weaver’s great performance with a line drive into the gap in left-center to score two runs and win the game.

Pettitte went 5 2/3, giving up four runs on nine hits, walking four and striking out two. In the first, he passed Kenny Rodgers as the all-time pick off leader when he got Torii Hunter leaning for his 94th.

After that rough first inning, Jarod Weaver allowed only two hits and one walk while striking out two in the next five innings. Altogether, he would allow four runs on four hits with three walks and two strike outs. But the bullpen struggled again, giving up six runs on eight hits and three walks in just three innings.

Posada led the Yankees with a homerun a walk and a walk-off single and three RBIs. Matthews Jr. was the best for the Angels going 3-5 with four RBIs and a triple.

Some injury updates are giving a lot of encouragement to Angel fans. Ervin Santana is scheduled to throw on Monday, with John Lackey going Tuesday, in the first of two minor league starts for both starting pitchers. Angel manager, Mike Scioscia said that Guerrero, “probably will return to baseball activities when we come home.” The Angels come back on May 6th so it looks as though they might be back to full strength in a little over a week from today.

Hunter Surveys His Enemy

Like a general surveying the field of battle, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s center fielder, Torii Hunter, went into the new Yankee stadium with purpose. “The dimensions are weird, especially for outfielders,” said Hunter. “The walls, the angles — you’ve got to try and figure out all of that. How the ball bounces off the wall, how the grass is playing. Does the ball snake in the grass, are there any lumps in the field, where is the wind blowing out and in most? That’s something you try to work on in batting practice.” Asking questions like that wins Gold Gloves.

This would be the first trip to the new Yankee Stadium for the Angels. So far this year, Yankee Stadium has been host to the most homeruns ever in a single month. The balls are just flying over the right field wall like it’s on a string to the upper decks. Case in point, in the first inning of Thursday night’s game, Maicer Izturis broke his bat on a 3-2 fastball that travelled all the way to the warning track in right. Izturis doesn’t have a lot of power, so hitting a broken bat to the track is something.

Anthony Ortega took the hill for the Angels in his second start. His 7.20 ERA in one start is a concern, but with Ervin Santana throwing well in extended spring training and John Lackey going tomorrow in Arizona, things are not looking as bleak as the last few weeks.

For the New York Yankees, A.J. Burnett was coming off a horrible start in Boston, allowing eight runs on eight hits while striking out three and three walks. But Nick Swisher has been the story for the Yankees. He has seven homeruns, 19 RBIs and 19 runs, leading the team in all categories.

Before the game, Angel Manager, Mike Scioscia, addressed the struggling Scott Shields. “He’s battling thing in his lower legs right now,” Scioscia said. Shields suffered shin splints during spring training.

But Shields is confident he’s fine. “I wasn’t missing by much,” said Shields. Mike Butcher noticed a mechanical error about a week ago and corrected it. “I made a minor tweak and I felt everything start to click again. I’m getting closer to (pitching like) myself.”

With the wind blowing hard from left to right field, the Angels looked to score early and often. Chone Figgins wasted no time. On the four pitch of the game, Figgins drove a ball right past the diving Jonny Damon in left center field, getting to third. Off Izturis’s broken bat line out, Figgins just trotted into home. Bobby Abreu continued to run like a teenager, ripping off his ninth bag of the year.

The Yankees, however, would not by out done. After Derek Jeter and Jonny Damon went down quickly, former Angel, Mark Teixeira doubled into center. Right fielder, Hideki Matsui, then double him in to tie the game.

But then the Angels came back. Mike Napoli loved the first pitch he saw and placed it into the right field stands. If they were in Anaheim or anywhere else on the planet, it would be a routine line out, but this new stadium loves the long ball. Howie Kendrick would follow with a walk and then stole second and advanced when the ball skipped away from Jorge Posada at home. Eric Aybar popped out deep enough to being Kendrick in to score.

And then the Yankees came up in the third. Damon took advantage of that inner stadium jet stream and gave a fan in the upper deck and a souvenir homerun ball. What was worse was that he did it with one arm. In the fourth, Nick Swisher singled into right field and advanced to second on grounder from Milky Cabrera. He got to third on a Ramiro Pena infield single. Jeter would double both runner in on a line drive past Abreu in right. Now, the Yankees had the lead, 3-4, but not for long.

Leading off the fifth, Eric Aybar stretched a single into a double on the weak arm of Jonny Damon in left. Figgins singled and Aybar raced around third to score easily on a blooper Damon, who did not contest the speedy Aybar.

But in the next two innings, the Angels could not score to put Ortega in line for his first Major League win. After getting Pena to pop out to center, Jeter lined a single to center and that would be it. He would leave giving up four runs on eight hits, striking out two and walking two. Scott Shields would be called upon to get them through the inning.

Shields has been improving, dropping his ERA from 14.40 to 9.39 in his last three outings. As has been his “MO,” Shields walked Damon, sending thoughts of blown holds all year into the minds of Angel fans across the country. But as he has done in his last three appearances, Shields got the next batter, Mark Teixeira, to ground into an inning ending double play. At least the games are exciting to watch.

These short appearances seem to be helping Shields confidence and Scioscia is not a man to mess with a man’s confidence. Justin Speier came in to start the eighth, facing the only two Yankees without a hit. But that lasted about half a second.

After Matsui popped out to Rivera in left, Robinson Cano lined a shot right to Abreu in right. Cano now had a seventeen game hit streak going. The Angels caught a break when Jorge Posada dropped a ground rule double into right center. All the Yankees had now got a hit. Speier would intentionally walk Nick Swisher and milky Cabrera lined one to right, scoring Cano and taking the lead. Things got even worse when Pena doubled down the first base line bringing in Posada and Swisher making it 4-7.

With only one out, Scioscia signled the bullpen to bring in Jason Bulger to keep the score down. Speier had been the one bright spot in the struggling Angel bullpen, but unfortunately, this was not Speier’s night. Bulger would walk Jeter and get Damon to pop out to Izturis at short stop. On a 3-2 pitch to Teixeira, Bulger threw a curve that froze Teixeira in place, striking out looking.

With a lead, the Yankees brought in the future Hall of Fame member, Mariano Rivera. Torii Hunter, who had not gotten a hit, sent one right back to where it came from for a single, extending his hit streak to 15. Kendry Morales went down looking and Napoli took a seat swinging. Their last chance was in Howie Kendrick. But on the second pitch, Kendrick dribbled one back to Rivera to end the game.

Ortega went 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits getting 2 strike outs and two walks. Coke got the win throwing one inning with one strike out. Rivera would get the save. Napoli led the Angels with two hits, one a homerun while Swisher led the Yankees going 2-3, scoring twice.

On Friday, the Angels will send Jarod Weaver against Andy Pettite in game two of this four game series.

Angels Look to Make it 3 in a Row

                Did you play hooky from school or work like I did just to watch the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim complete their series in Baltimore? It was cold and damp at Camden Yard for Shane Loux and the Angels, and thank God for that.

In the first inning, Loux got into a lot of trouble. Roberts lined a single into center. Adam Jones then ground to Maicer Izturis who tried to “O-lay” it and let the ball get away. Roberts would move to third. Nick Markakis walked and the bases were loaded with zero outs and the dangerous Aubrey Huff strolled to the plate. Luckily, the damp weather causes balls not to carry as well when a ball is crushed by a mistake from the pitcher. Huff drilled one deep to center, but Gary Matthews Jr. tracked it in, but Roberts would score. The Angels would get Luke Scott to fly to right and Ty Wigginton popped up to Kendry Morales at first to get out of the inning.

In the Second, Chad Moeller led off with a triple on a bad angle Matthew Jr. took on a line drive to center. With zero outs again, Loux was able to get out of the jam when Felix Pie ground right to first and Caesar Izturis, half-brother of Angels Maicer Izturis, squibed it right back Loux who got Moeller in a rundown. Little Leaguers should not watch how this one was done. Loux threw to Mathis at home instead of running Moeller back to third himself. But it worked and Loux was out of it unscathed.

He would retire the next eleven hitting in a row. Maicer Izturis made a great diving stop on the grass to get Moeller in the fourth. He really was trying to make up for his error in the first, and he did.

For the Orioles, Koji Uehara, a fourteen year veteran from Japan, had his “A-Game” on Wednesday. After poor base running by the Angels in the first where Torii Hunter was caught in between first and second and Abreu was caught trying to go home on the play, Uehara got the next six in order.

But in the fourth, Maicer Izturis would make up for his error that scored one for the Orioles. After lining a single to center field, he would advance to second on a hit-and-run with Hunter who ground out. The extremely hot, Kendry Morales came up and continued to do his thing. Morales drove a 2-1 pitch into deep center and after Jones dove to try and stop it, the ball squirted away to the wall. Bringing Izturis home to tie the game at one a piece, Morales ran for his life, sliding into third for a triple.

After getting the next seven hitters, Uehara made his first true mistake in the seventh. On a 1-1 pitch to Torii Hunter, the hanging spit finger fastball was placed 405 feet from home, over the left field wall to give the Angels their first lead of the day. Kendry Morales continued his dismantling of the Orioles when he smashed a 0-2 slider 395 feet over the right-center fence.

A scary moment later in the inning when Gary Matthews Jr. lined a shot right back to Uehara that hit him in the chest, literally, knocking him out of the game. W would later be told he would be alright with only a bruised sternum. Denys Baez came on in relief and even though he quickly loaded the bases, Chone Figgins reached on a fielder’s choice when he hit it to the short stop, who threw home. Howie Kendrick would fly out to left.

Chad Moeller continued to annoy the Angels, starting the seventh off with a single. And that would be it Shane Loux. Justin Speier came on in relief and got Pie and Lou Montanez, pinch hitting for Izturis, to strike out and Roberts to line out to Morales at first, ending the inning. Loux went six full innings allowing one run on four hits. He got three strike outs and two walks and left inline for his first win of his Angel’s career.

Jose Arredondo came on in the eighth and the hearts began to pound again. Adam Jones reached on a tough grounder, mishandled by Figgins. Arredondo blow a spit finger between Jeff Mathis’s legs, allowing Jones to reach second. With a 16 game hit streak on the line, Nick Markakis lined over Kendrick’s head at second, scoring Jones. The lead was now one. Markakis was caught stealing second base for the first out and when Huff and Scott went down looking, the threat was over.

Ryan Fuentes entered the game in the ninth to protect the Angels precarious one run lead. I’ve talked about it all season long. Fans have to hold their breath when the bullpen is called upon. Fuentes has saved four out of five games so far, but even Francisco Rodriguez lost a few last year. Ty Wigginton started the bottom of the ninth striking out. Moeller would pop up to Izturis at short. Melvin Mora would come in to pinch hit for Pie.

As fans watching the game at home, we were treated to an interview in the fifth with Angel’s General Manager, Tony Reagins. “Loux in getting more comfortable as the game goes on,” Reagins would say about their fourth starter. He does recognize that they need to execute better, but assured fans that “the troops are on their way.”

 When asked about Pedro Martinez still being available, Reagins said, “We’re hoping the guys we have can hold down the fort.” Both Ervin Santana and John Lackey would be throwing 50-60 pitches in extended spring training game this weekend in Arizona.

Chone Figgins went 0-4, only reaching on a fielder’s choice. Both Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales were 2-4, each with a homerun. For Baltimore, Adam Jones led the team with two hits and one run. Moeller went 2-4 with a double and a triple. Uehara would get the loss despite allowing only three runs on six hits getting five strike outs and walking none. Loux would get the win and Fuentes got his fifth save.

The ship is still listing, but the leaking has stopped for now.

Heart…Beating…too..Fast

                What fun would baseball be without excitement? It would be soccer. From the beginning of the game, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would fight, scratch and even bite to try and get themselves back into their winning ways.

                Joe Saunders took the hill for the Angels at Camden Yard in Baltimore. Eric Eaton would throw for the Orioles. After a tough first few innings for Saunders, he was able to settle down and only allowed two earned runs, even though four were scored on errors. Nick Markakis scored on a single from Mora and again behind Adam Jones on a Ty Wigginton single. Mora would score making it 4-2.

                But some shenanigans happened later in the third inning. Figgins led off with a double, but was caught trying to stretch it into a triple. Maicer Izturis singled on the first offering from Eaton. With Bobby Abreu up, Izturis was caught trying to steal second when Eaton stepped off at the right time to catch him. Or did he? Home plate umpire, Angel Cabrera called a balk on Eaton sending Izturis out of the dugout and onto second base.

                An obviously upset Oriole manager, Dave Trembly, came storming out of the dugout and ripped into Cabrera. On closer inspection… I’m not sure that was a balk. Eaton’s from foot made a strange move, but did not come back across the rubber. From home, it is easy to see why Cabrera called it. But from the side view, which first and third base umpires have, the foot did not come anywhere near the rubber, let alone go across it. Trembly was promptly thrown out of the game.

                This was a huge play because after Abreu struck out looking, making it two out and not three, Hunter walked, and Kendry Morales doubled to right center scoring both. The Angels had their first lead of the game. Howie Kendrick put the two more runs on the board for the Angels with a homerun to the deep center field in Camden Yard that scored Kendry Morales, tying the game.

                Figgins scored in the fifth off a ground out from Hunter and in the eighth, Izturis and Hunter scored on a Morales double.

                Scot Shields would throw in the eighth and Angel fans have been holding their breath every time he comes in from the bullpen. After walking the first batter, it looked as though the end was near. The next batter smacked a 3-2 fastball, left right over the plate, deep over the warning track, but not over Torii Hunter. Fuming, manager Mike Scioscia came out to talk to Shields. The next two batters took to the bench, going down on strikes.

                The terror came back in the ninth when closer, Ryan Fuentes, helped Adam Jones deposit a ball into the right field stands. Although we would like to think the opposite, it is not reasonable to hold pitches to a, “Get’em all,” standard. But three out of four with a two run lead will be good enough.

                Wednesday, the Angels face the Orioles again, pitting Shane Loux and against Koji Uehara But the true excitement begins on Thursday when the Angels go to New York and fight the giant rats and alligators that patrol the toilets… and they take on the Yankees. If one looks at probable pitchers, a scary notion is looming. Jarod Weaver, a notoriously fly ball pitcher, will throw in the place that turns shallow outs, into sky rocketing homeruns.

Angels Try to Avoid the Sweep

                Its tough to win when one side of your pitching staff can’t hold an opponent to less than eight runs. The night before, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trotted out their eighth stating pitcher in Ortega. Although Seattle is a great team this year, nineteen runs in two games is absolutly pathetic. And the Angels are scoring. In the past three games, they have scored 28 runs but only collected one win. If its not the relievers, its the starters.

                But the hitters are there. They want to win. But when they have lost six starters and had to promote relievers who can’t start which depletes the bullpen as well as their psychy. Shields has been aweful so far this year. With an ERA over 14, its a wonder manager Mike Scioscia hasn’t sent him down to the minors. Two years ago, Scioscia sent Ervin Santana to Salt Lake City for two weeks during the regular season. At the time, Santana had yet to win a single game on the road. After four months of non-production, Santana took the oppertunity to work on his pitch and came back to win both road game left in the year.

                Although, maybe he’s beginning to read the blogs and want to stick it to us. Friday night, Shields threw for one inning and only walked one, allowing zero runs. Sunday, he went one inning of scorless work.

                But Jarod Weaver was the story in this game. In the first, it was looking bad when Ken Griffey Jr. and Adrian Beltrea reached on back to back singles. But Weaver was able to get out of the inning without a run crossing the plate. In the bottom of the second, the Angels struck. Torii Hunter led off with a double to left center. Then, the revitalized Howie Kendrick did not wait for Jarrod Washburn to get his groove going. On the first offering, Kendrick hit a fastball deep into the rocks in center field for a two run homerun.

                Juan Rivera finally got hot today when he smacked a three run shot in the fourth just padding the lead. They would add two more in the eighth when Matthews Jr., Abreu, Hunter and Rivera singled all with two outs, making it 8-0.

                Weaver went seven strong, and more importantly scoreless, innings. Shields came in the eighth and went three up and three down, getting Chavez to double up Ichiro Suzuki. Ryan Fuentez would close out the nineth, striking out three, while walking Griffey. The Angels would have their second shutout of the season.

                But its not just about the guys in California.

                ON Sunday afternoon, the Bruins of UCLA travelled west to Tempe, Az to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. UCLA came into this game trailing Arizona by half a game in the Pac-10 confrence and Arizona down by one full game. The Sun Devils are nationaly ranked in the fourth spot, while UCLA is ranked second.

                Did I mention this was women’s college softball? It really is not just about the guys. Women’s softball is one of the most exciting sports to watch. And if you’re not that into watching college football players sign contracts for next season in the NFL, this is a great sport to watch on a sunny afternoon.

                Megan Langenfeld came into this game for the Bruins with a 0.88 ERA allowing five walks, but getting 73 strikeouts in her 9 victories this year. For the Sun Devils, Hillary Back has struck out an amazing 213 batters with her 2.23 ERA. But that ERA would not be nearly the same for Bach after this day.

                UCLA started the game with all the heart a Bruin brings to their sports. All-American, Katie Schroder led off with a dribbler back to the pitcher and was to first before Hillary Bach even reached to the ball. But the UCLA pitcher, Megan Langenfeld smacked that great ball deep over the center field fence to put them up 2-0. Gionna Disalvatore came up next and kill the first pitch, depositing it over the right field fence. They would score again in the second when Andrea Harrison hit a three run homer to right, bringing the mercy rule into affect. Disalvatore hit another shot in the second to make it 8-0 early. Bach allowed seven runs on seven hits before being relieved by Elliot, who gave up Disalvatore’s second homerun.

                They would mercy the Sun Devils 9-1 putting the Bruins into first in the Pac-10.

 

Not Good, Just Not Good!

                After a great, and much needed, win against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night in Anaheim, the Los Angeles Angels had to face a tough gritty guy with something to prove. Last season, Eric Bedard was 6-4 with a 3.86 ERA, decent enough for most, but did not live up to the five man trade expectations Seattle Mariner fans had for him. They wanted the 13-5 pitcher with an ERA of 3.14 and 221 strikeouts from 2007 in Detroit. Well, it looks as though Bedard has found that stride this year.

He went 8.1 shutout innings against Oakland two weeks ago with seven strikeouts and 6 innings giving up seven hits, two walks and only one earned run, all the while striking out eight. When asked about his turn around, all Bedard would say is, “I chalk it up to throwing strikes.” Teammate, Jarrod Washburn said, “As everybody found out two years ago, when Eric Bedard is healthy, he’s one of the best in the game. And right now, Bedard is healthy. Too bad for the Angels!

They would send Shane Loux to the hill. Loux has been a so-so against Seattle in the past. His ERA is 3.38 in 5.1 innings with three walks but only two strikeouts. But the Angels had some hope still in the bag. They have done well against Bedard in the past. Center fielder, Torii Hunter, two homeruns, six RBIs and is batting .450 off Bedard in 20 at bats. Contributing to him starting Friday, Rob Quinlan has a .545 batting average against him. Hunter was second in the American League in homeruns with 6 while the 35 year old Bobby Abreu leads all Major Leaguers with eight stolen bases.

Gary Matthews Jr. is also stepping up to the plate with Vlad Guerrero still being on the disabled list. Matthews Jr. told me before the game about his increased productivity, “It’s called knee surgery. And I don’t recommend it,” he would later joke.

But as so many games this year have began, the Seattle mariners scored early, and scored often. Russell Branyan crushed a 1-0 fastball deep into the rocks at Angel Stadium to give them the 1-0 lead. Things were very quiet, on both sides for half the game. Seattle kept putting man on base, but could not get them in. In the third, Loux got Jose Lopez to pop out to Matthews Jr. in right to send all three men on base back to the to look for their gloves.

The Angels, however, broke up Bedard’s perfect game when Eric Aybar doubled into center. Bedard was dealing, getting five strikeouts and eleven ground outs in his seven inning. Catcher, Mike Napoli would smack a homerun deep into the stands in the bottom of the fifth and Howie Kendrick would score all the from first on a Rob Quinlan double that, on the throw to third, bounced off base coach, Deno Ebel, and into the stands that put Quinlan on third. Aybar would score him on a grounder to second.

But all this was in response to what Seattle did in their part of the fifth. Ichiro Suzuki led of with a grounder up the middle for a single. Chavez followed with a liner to left and Griffey Jr. lined to right, loading the bases. Adrian Beltre took the next pitch into left, scoring two on his double. Jose Lopez walked, loading the bases again. After a past ball by Napoli, moving everyone up one, including Branyan who score, Rob Johnson singled center making the 7-3 by the sixth. Chavez would score the next inning after a questionable stagy call from Mike Scioscia. They intentionally walked Beltre, who was batting .167 at the time to get to Branyan, who was 2-2 with a walk and a homerun. He had scored twice already! As you guessed, Branyan doubled, making it 8-3.

Napoli would get on in the eighth and even steal a base, a rarity for him, but the Angels wouldn’t fight this battle.

Scioscia announced after the game that they would be bringing up another Minor League pitcher in Anthony Ortega against Carlos Silva for tomorrow’s game. He was an ERA of 9.45 this season alone. This will be his first career Major League and the hopes of all Angel fans ride with him.

I know we are stretched thin and we just have to survive until May when John Lackey and Ervin Santana come back from injuries, but at some point, someone has to ask, “OK, who forgot to sacrifice the goat at the pregame dinner?”

Angels exsize the Demon

                When a team is in desperate straights, sometimes you have to dive deep into that well. Early Thursday, Darren Oliver was placed on the 15 day disabled list for a strained left tricep. Oliver was recently moved back to the bullpen not for his inability to pitch, but for the bullpen’s struggle. That puts the total of Angel pitchers out of action at six. Six!

                John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvin Escobar began the 2009 season still not healthy from last year. Everyone knows of the tragic death of Nick Adenhart, which required Oliver to be promoted in the first place. Last week, Dustin Moseley left the game against the Minnesota Twins early with right elbow stiffness.

                Darren Oliver stepped up and replaced Adenhart, leaving a huge whole in the bullpen, losing there best left handed pitcher. But when turning the game over to them became like playing Russian roulette with an automatic pistol. Wednsday, Oliver was asked to return to the bullpen but had to be placed on the DL Thursday with soreness in his throwing triceps.

                To put things in perspective, the Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher’s ERA coming into Thursday’s game was 3.32, second in the American League. That is without Oliver. Compare it to the bullpen’s ERA, even with Oliver, at 8.63, last in among all Major League teams; it is easy to see why they can’t hold an 8-5 lead after the eighth inning.

                With this kind of struggles and their great farm system beginning to be depleted, it’s a simple decision for Angel manager, Mike Scioscia, to activate a guy with an ERA of 11.74 this year in Salt Lake City. Are you kidding me? Matt Palmer started three games last year for the San Francisco Giants and was promptly set away with a 0-2 record and an ERA of 8.53. He threw 12.2 innings, walked 13 and struck out an amazing 3 whole batters. “We expect them to come up here and perform well, Scioscia would say on Palmer’s call up to the Big Leagues.

                Palmer would face a good pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in Edwin Jackson. Striking out 13 batters already this season, Jackson has put up an impressive 2.17 ERA in three games, winning one. But the real challenge for Palmer and the Angels would be how they could possible stop their own personal “demon,” in Curtis Granderson. Already going 6-8 with three homeruns in just two games, Granderson is killing the Angels scoring four times.

                And it wouldn’t take long for Granderson to stick it to them again. He would slap a grounder up the middle and steal second on the first pitch. After Placico Polanco walked, Miguel Cabrera would knock Granderson in to take an early lead. In the second inning, third baseman, Brandon Inge would drive a 3-2 fastball over the bullpens in left field, putting the Tigers up 2-0.

                It could be seen as a good thing that the Angels. But right now, everything is focused on their problems. Teams in trouble have their troubles accentuated while their triums are swept aside. Both runs score in the inning were gifts, literally. Tory Hunter, Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera all singled to load the bases. With zero outs, the Angels were in position to really put a hurt on the struggling Jackson. Gary Matthews Jr walked, scoring Hunter, but Kendrick continued his slump, striking out. Catcher, Jeff Mathis would walk, bringing in Morales. But Chone Figgins flied out to right and Maicer Izturis ground out to second base that ended their golden opportunity.

                So far this year, the Angels are batting .289 but only .250 with runners in scoring position, which ranks 12th in baseball. With only eight teams making the playoffs, that puts the Angels on the outside looking in.

                In the bottom half of the fifth, Tory Hunter took a 0-1 fastball deep over the right center wall to give Matt Palmer and the Angels their first lead of the day. It was a big deal, even though it was a solo shot. Tory Hunter got his 800th RBI of his career. Congratulation to Hunter, one of two Angels doing well so far this season.

                Palmer stopped the bleeding momentarily, retiring twelve in a row before Carlos Guillen single into center in the sixth. Brandon Inge would pop out to Matthew Jr in center to end the inning. But fans were nervously wondering if the bullpen would be called upon now, or later.

                Detroit continued to give the Angels chance when Matthews Jr. got an infield single and the short stop Chris Everett bobbled a tough play, allowing Howie Kendrick to reach on an error. Mathis was unable to get the bunt down, which really upset Manager Mike Scioscia, but both runners were able to advance on a wild pitch by Jackson. But it worked out when he smacked a shot to third and Brandon Inge threw the ball into the stands bringing in both runners and putting Mathis on second.

                That would be it for Jackson as Tiger’s manager; Jim Leyland grabbed the hook and brought in Eddie Bonine. Mathis would score when Bobby Abreu hit a dribbler to Everett who couldn’t catch the old man who was running like he was in his early 20’s. The Angels would take a 2-6 lead going into the seventh.

                Palmer did not help his cause by allowing Josh Anderson to reach on a Figgins error, then walking Jeff Larish and Adam Everett to load the bases with zero outs. Newbie Daniel Davidson would replace Palmer. This would be Davidson’s second ever MLB appearance. Scioscia was throwing Daniel into the den of lions. He would face the “Angel Killer,” Curtis Granderson. Davidson lasted five pitches, walking Granderson and adding another run for Detroit. Jason Bugler would come in and quickly, the lead cut to one. Polanco singled around Izturis at short to score two runs with still zero outs. Luckily, Ordonez would pop out to first and Cabrera would ground into a double play, to end the inning.

                One cannot blame Scioscia for leaving Palmer in longer than he should have. Had I been the manager, I would have let Palmer finish the game. Most Angel fans have zero confidence in the bullpen of the Angels. Bulger allowed three to score, none of them earned, and none charged to him.

                But the Angels would get them back in the seventh with two outs when Matthews Jr. singled and Howie Kendrick broke his 0-13 slump with a double to right field. Mathis would walk and Chone Figgins laid down a perfect bunt and when first baseman Cabrera threw the ball away, allowing two to score. Izturis would single to right, scoring Mathis and Abreu scored Figgins on another single to right off Brandon Lyon.

                So the frenzied hitting of the Angels finally awoken, taking the lead 10-5. But could the bullpen hold the Tigers to less then five runs in six outs. They couldn’t the night before, but Scott Shields was nowhere in sight. For the first time in a while, the Angels would take the lead into the ninth having not allowed a run in the eighth. Jason Bulger went through the heart of the Tiger’s line-up in order.

                Justin Speier came on to try and finish the game and keep their home record at .500 or better. Speier has been one of the best relievers for the Angels with a 3.34 ERA. This would not be a save opportunity, but a win is more important. He would get the Tigers in order to finally light up that Halo in Anaheim.

                For the second time in two games, the Angels score ten runs and each starter had a hit. It will be a tall order to continue this hitting streak against the A.L. West best Seattle Mariners.

                I am man enough to admit when I am wrong and alluding to starter, Matt Palmer, about to give the Angles another loss was wrong. He pitched quite well. But one game does not make a career. Here’s hoping Mike Scioscia knows what he is doing because a lot of fans think he doesn’t. Until the Angels are officially ellimated from the playoffs, no one can say anything against him.